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Features May 2004: Volume 1, Number 2


The People’s Voice

by Pamela Fruge, Warren ’87


I will never forget the year Angela Davis returned to campus to speak at Peterson Hall. So many people came to see her that a second lecture room was opened with a video feed. Midway through her speech, the wiring was mysteriously severed, disabling the video, cutting all sound and effectively silencing her. I was an editor on The People’s Voice, the African-American student newspaper, and we had worked with the Black Student Union (BSU) to bring her to campus. The People’s Voice planned to publish articles outlining her history at UCSD to coincide with her visit. Our conservative media mates, the right wing California Review, made it clear that they would make a statement in response. And maybe this was it. While we scrambled to get a handheld microphone for Angela, all of those in the overflow room, squeezed into the main room to hear the rest of her speech. She was undaunted.

Adding to the insult, that week’s issue of The People’s Voice ended up in trash cans across campus. The political climate was hot.

In the 1980s, UCSD’s African-American student population was about 350 and we all felt it important that our collective voice was heard on campus. Almost all of us were members of BSU and we actively sought the counsel and support of African-American staff and faculty such as Joe Watson, Charles Thomas (“plan your work and work your plan”), Bobbie Gray, Phil Rafael, Cecil Lytle, Carolyn Buck, Floyd Gaffney and Nolan Penn.

One of my best friends, Angela Knox, ’88, was an editor at The Voice and she, along with another friend, Robyn Broughton, ’85, one of the Pan-African revolutionaries at UCSD, persuaded me to join the paper as a writer and editor.
The People’s Voice was named after the 1940s weekly newspaper created by Adam Clayton Powell, the first Black congressman from New York. Our motto was “Dedicated to Inform, Enlighten and Educate” and we covered topics focusing on strategies for academic and social survival, for African-American students.

We spent many late nights creating, editing and laying out articles on the light board and creating pages by hand with border tape, while fighting for time on the typesetters and other ancient tools of the trade with the other student publications.

The media room, located on the second floor of the original Student Center, was shared by a motley crew indeed. Apart from The People’s Voice, there was Voz Fronteriza! (run by MECHa students), a fraternity paper and the right wing California Review. Needless to say, the production nights and mornings often turned into heated debates on race, class and economics. The Voice and Voz became natural allies, working to support each other and publishing stories on similar topics in both English and Spanish. Articles published in 1986 ranged from “Campus Survival” to “No Emancipation from Ronald Reagan” to “What are the Souls of Black Folk Worth?” And an important piece in the October 1986 issue, “In Search of Ourselves,” discussed how Black students on many campuses were changing how they chose to name themselves.

The People’s Voice is no longer published but the legacy remains. I would not be surprised to find it resurrected in some form one day, as the small but incredibly amazing, politically active group of African-American students currently at UCSD, use their voices and talents to achieve an even higher level of recognition.

Do you have a memory or a story about UCSD? This space could be yours. Write to the editor at alumnieditor@ucsd.edu

—Pamela Fruge, Warren ’87, is a Management Officer at UC San Diego’s Education Studies.


UCSD Black Alumni Chapter

The Ché Cafe Collective

Email Pamela

Do you have a memory  or story about UCSD? Email the editor.